Our In Conversation series features bi-monthly  interviews with a wide variety  of activists, change-makers and visionaries

More than just a region, Silicon Valley has also become, well, a concept. What that concept represents means a lot of different things to different people. Some might think of it as a techno-utopian dreamland where billionaires are made. Others, perhaps a soul-sucking dystopia driven by a never ending rat race — also where billionaires are made!

 

Whatever you may think, one thing that's hard to disagree with is the idea that work dominates Silicon Valley, and while some here are simply working to live, a certain privileged class of society actually lives to work. It's this class of workers that are the main characters in Carolyn Chen’s new book: Work Pray Code: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley.

The latest IPCC report includes a great deal of research from social scientists, and for the first time, in a major way, debunks much of the economics behind neoliberal climate solutions, even going so far as to name colonialism as a driver for climate change, and even alludes to capitalism as a major contributing factor. To unpack it all, we’ve brought on Amy Westervelt, an award-winning climate journalist, founder of the Critical Frequency podcast network, and host of the podcast Drilled. 

 

Is the fossil fuel industry, as they would like us to believe, a demand-driven industry? Or has it really become more of a market looking for a product? Are we getting to a place where mainstream narratives no longer simply call for individual actions, but focus much more heavily on collective and systemic solutions to climate change? And are we finally moving away from seeing global warming as a strictly environmental issue, and instead to seeing it as one more rooted class struggles against systems like capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism? These are some of the topics we explore in this conversation.

In this Conversation, we speak with Jennifer Hinton, who offers a vision of an entirely not-for-profit economy made up exclusively of not-for-profit businesses that de-emphasize profit and growth and instead prioritize businesses as a means for social and environmental benefit. Together we look at examples and operating principles of this model, we explore how it navigates the capitalism/socialism binary, and we ask what conditions would be necessary for this model to truly offer a bridge to a post-growth, post-capitalist world.

In this Conversation we’re talking COVID with Beatrice Adler-Bolton — co-host of the Death Panel podcast and co-author of the forthcoming book, Health Communism: A Surplus Manifesto. What are the structural causes of skyrocketing COVID rates in the US? How has COVID laid bare the rotting foundation of not just the U.S. healthcare system — but almost every single institution in this country? And how are our political leaders using the pandemic as a launching ground for the rewriting of the social contract in a way that even further minimizes the responsibility of the state to protect people? These are just some of the questions we’ll explore in conversation with Beatrice Alder-Bolton.

In the United States, teenagers can focus on one task for only sixty-five seconds at a time, and office workers lose focus every three minutes. We tend to think of things like this as inevitable and we personalize them, we create little narratives about personal failure or a lack of willpower. But this isn’t really the case. The problem is systemic, and in his latest book, Lost Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – And How to Think Deeply Again, author and journalist Johann Hari explains why everything we think we know about this crisis of attention is wrong and why we need an attention revolution. 

 

Johann Hari is also the author of the books Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, as well as Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions. 

To critique and transform our dominant economic system, we must deeply understand our economic system – its operating principles, its history, and its ambitions. 


In this Conversation, we’ve brought on someone who can help us do exactly that. Hadas Thier is the author of A People’s Guide to Capitalism: An Introduction to Marxist Economics, published by Haymarket Books. In the next hour, she’ll help us break down capitalism into its fundamental components – and not in an overly technical way, but in a manner that situates it within historical and modern day events and phenomena – she’ll also provide us with a comprehensive and compelling explanation as to why we’re all feeling so exploited and alienated, and finally, she’ll give us a clearer vision as to how we could move closer to a post-capitalist, more equitable and ecologically just future.

More interviews from our In Conversation series